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Research on nonpharmacological effects of alcohol shows that exposure to alcohol-related cues (i.e., alcohol priming) can increase behaviors associated with actual alcohol consumption. Attributions of responsibility to female victims in sexual assault scenarios are affected by whether or not alcohol was consumed by a victim and/or perpetrator. Victims often receive higher levels of blame if they consume alcohol prior to the assault. This work extends the research on nonpharmacological effects of alcohol into a novel domain of blame attribution toward rape victims. In two studies, participants in lab settings (Study 1; N = 184) and online (Study 2; N = 421) were primed with alcohol or neutral beverage advertisements as part of a purportedly separate ad-rating task and then were presented with a vignette depicting an acquaintance rape where the characters consumed beer or soda. Participants subsequently completed a questionnaire assessing victim blame and perpetrator blame. Across both studies, participants blamed the victim most when they were exposed to both contextual (story) and noncontextual (ads) alcohol cues; this effect was especially prominent in males in Study 1. Findings for perpetrator blame were inconsistent across studies. Implications of nonpharmacological effects of alcohol on blame attribution toward rape victims are discussed in the context of courtroom situations and bystander intervention.


Stepanova, Elena. Brown, Amy., "Alcohol Priming and Attribution of Blame in an Acquaintance Rape Vignette", Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Copyright © 2017. DOI: 10.1177/0886260517744762

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Journal of Interpersonal Violence

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